Many times in my life I had to make do with a tiny kitchen or a corner of a room vaguely resembling a kitchen. The most primitive was a in a beautiful, if run down, pink house, in Kensington, just steps away from Kensington Palace. I was actually told that the house used to be part of the Palace’s stable. Maybe but at the time I was living in it, it belonged to a octuagenarian spinster, Ms. Hague, virtually bedridden, who used to rent  the upper half of her property to well-behaved young ladies like Margaret and me (with Margaret being much better behaved than me).

Forced to walk past Ms. Hague’s bedroom on our way in or out, Margaret and I would always edge our bets on the creaking stairs alerting the old crone to our presence, followed by a baritone voice shouting “Claudia, is that you?” At that point, one of us would be trapped, sent to the kitchen for a can of boiled carrots or to switch the kettle on for a cup of tea.

I used to sleep in a turret, with beautiful bevelled windows that, in winter, would let gale force winds through, and no heating besides an ancient electrical heater, the dangers of which I wasn’t savvy enough to recognize. I would have to set up the alarm clock 45 minutes before getting up, sprinting to switch the heater on and jump back into bed to face the coldest mornings. The kitchen featured a sink, a minibar size fridge and a camping stove. That was it. At the time, my meals mainly consisted of bowls of corn flakes so that arrangement wasn’t a great impediment to the culinary skills I didn’t yet possess.

In Milan I rented an adorable top floor flat with sloping ceilings and a bright orange kitchen that lacked an oven. By then, my dietary habits had evolved and I purchased a counter top oven that did the job (apart from the time when the pizza burst out of it and threatened to take over the living room – I hadn’t quite calculated the yeast ratio correctly).

So I am sympathetic to the young man who is venturing in the world alone and can’t afford more than a bedsit, with a kitchen unit but no oven, and is looking for bake free desserts. There are very many but the first that came to mind was panna cotta (For recipe, click here)

For something a bit more involved, he should try a semifreddo (which does need a freezer). As good as ice-cream, and just as creamy, it does not need an ice-cream maker either.

The coconut macaroons can be made at home (with an oven) but store-bought ones will do.

COCONUT SEMIFREDDO – yields 8 servings

12 Coconut Macaroons, dried up.

3/4 C Sugar

3 Eggs, separated

1 ts Vanilla Extract

2 C Heavy Cream


  1. Grind the macaroons in a food processor or crumble them by hand. Set aside.
  2. Heat the sugar with 3/4 cup of water until it reaches 230F on a candy thermometer.
  3. Meanwhile, whip the yolks until fluffy.
  4. In a different bowl, whip the egg whites to firm peaks. Fold the yolks into the whites.
  5. When the sugar is ready, with the mixer running on medium (or whisking by hand), slowly pour the syrup into the egg mixture. Add the vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to low and keep on whipping until the mixture is no longer hot.
  6. Whip the cream and fold it into the egg mixture.
  7. Line the bottom of a mold (a loaf pan will do) with parchment paper. Spoon half the macaroon crumbs on the bottom. Cover with the mousse and spoon the rest of the macaroons on top. Cover with plastic and freeze overnight or at least 8 hours.
  8. When ready to serve, unmold and cut into slices or wedges.

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Filed under baking, desserts, food

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